Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Different Way to Learn

A few weeks back, I posted a very cool video on the book Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson which consisted entirely of a disembodied hand drawing on a whiteboard. Aside from the visuals, the message about how truly creative ideas come about really hit home.

My son Ben just sent me another video, and once again, it’s a whiteboard illustration. This time with some game-changing ideas about education.

The audio is of a lecture given by Sir Ken Robinson, a celebrated British creativity guru who I’ve written about here before. In fact, he was a client of our new Fallon, London CEO, Gail Gallie’s consultancy, GallieGodfrey.

His mission: to stop schools from robbing kids of their innate creativity.

Sir Ken is most mind-blowing when he poses questions that have been staring us in the face for years. Why do schools batch children together by age group? Why teach them all the same thing? Why drill into them the idea that there is only one correct answer to any question?

It’s almost as if schools are designed to stunt creativity.

Children are enormously good at what Edward de Bono called lateral thinking, and what Robinson calls divergent thinking: the ability to devise many answers to a single question. According to Sir Ken, 98% of kindergarten students score at genius levels in divergent thinking. But that number drops dramatically as they get older.

How do we stop this? Instead of putting them in conformist environments that frustrate their creativity, Sir Ken tells us, we should be fostering independent thinking and experimentation in our schools.

To confront the problems of the present and the future (the energy crisis, unemployment, war, poverty, just to name a few) we’ll need armies of creative geniuses in all sectors, from engineering to advertising, climate science to industrial design.

The InspirUS program at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, which my old mate Stan Hilling and I support, is in this space. The program provides an environment where gifted students can exercise their creative impulses, and escape the conformity of a traditional classroom.

Not quite the revolution that Sir Ken is calling for, but it’s one of many important steps towards unlocking the creativity of today’s young people, and preparing the mindset needed to make the world a better place for everyone.


Marcus said...

The ability to process multiple forms of information simultaneously is now taking its toll on all age groups (Brain bombardment),not just the youth. Some of my best lessons were done at the school hospital. You don't need pills, sleeping in class should be accepted as normal- I am sure I read a paper that suggests we learn whilst in the sub-conscious.

Chris Simon - Wide Open Space said...

That is inspiring what your son sent you. Somewhere I think I still have my signed copy of the beautiful hard back illustrated book, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast, by Alan Aldridge. I was lucky enough to be granted a private audience with the famous illustrator when I was fresh out of Art School and doing one of my first jobs in London’s ad land. He was a bit of a hero of mine through his work illustrating Beatles’ lyrics and that kind of thing. What’s relevant to your story here is that he strongly believed the Art School’s of the time were robbing students of their innate creativity and instead teaching them a “house style”. I was a tad anti what he was very passionately telling (teaching) me because I considered myself to have been one of the slightly “out there” Harrow Art School guys. But he took me through some gallery examples, saying, “Yeah, well, obviously a St. Martin’s“(of a fashion orientation) or “And here’s a typically Harrow graphics example” and going through all the major colleges. He was so right, because all paintings, sculptures, fashion design, photography, portraits,etc, had a certain “house look”. I think Aldridge would appreciate these environments where artists can exercise creative impulse and escape conformity. I know I certainly did having left Harrow never conforming to any traditional style whatsoever and really understanding more deeply now what Aldridge was going on about and, certainly, what your blog is talking about.